With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s no surprise many of us feel edgy right now. Luckily, you can breeze through busy days without tension with these relaxing remedies. Bonus: Yale research shows keeping your levels of the stress hormone cortisol in check can ward off diabetes, heart disease, and the blues! Just follow these tips to beat holiday stress.
Give in to daydreaming.
Letting your mind wander may actually be the most productive part of your day! Harvard scientists say daydreaming allows the brain’s frontal cortex — the area responsible for resisting distractions — to rest and recharge, enabling you to attack your to-do’s with renewed vigor and focus. The trick: Skip using downtime to run through your day’s responsibilities. Instead, prompt your thoughts with topics you enjoy. And the benefits extend beyond renewed focus: Daydreaming has been shown to boost creativity and improve well-being too!
Listen to a good story.
You love unwinding with a good book, and British research shows just six minutes of reading reduces stress. But on busy days, when you don’t have time to read, try listening to an audiobook. A new Brazilian study found that hearing a story read aloud triggers vivid mental images (a phenomenon called “narrative transport”). A spoken story fully absorbs your attention, making your “real world” worries fade away as you engross yourself in a fantastical world, lowering cortisol levels by 60 percent in 30 minutes.
Sniff a festive scent.
Inhaling the aroma of a pine-scented candle or the fresh boughs on your mantel can cut stress by 50 percent in as little as 90 seconds, Japanese scientists say. Study authors explain that unique compounds (called pinenes) that give evergreens their distinctive scent exert calming effects on the central nervous system, helping you instantly feel more at ease.
Hum ‘O Holy Night.’
Hum along to your favorite holiday song, and your stress levels will drop by up to 48 percent in one minute, British researchers report. The inner-ear vibrations produced by humming prompt the formation of stress-soothing brain waves. Prefer to sing instead? Permission granted! Research in the Journal of Voice reveals singing eases stress by boosting endorphins, the same tension-taming brain chemicals released when you exercise.
Bite into a clementine.
Winter citrus is finally in season, and savoring these juicy gems is a tasty way to tamp down tension. Arizona State University scientists say boosting your levels of vitamin C, whether through foods like citrus, berries, and bell peppers or by supplementing with 500 mg of vitamin C daily, helps you feel 65 percent calmer. The nutrient soothes your adrenal glands, rapidly reining in their cortisol production. It’s a delicious way to beat holiday stress!